Spoilers ahead for The Last Jedi
In January 2018, Empire Magazine made a list of the greatest movie villains of all time. The big bads were all there, including Darth Vader, Voldemort, Joker and Hans Gruber. What surprised a lot of people though is that the relevantly new villain, Kylo Ren, who is the primary antagonist in the current Star Wars saga, came in at number seven. With the recent announcement of the home video release dates and production set to begin on Episode IX in the next few months, now seemed like a good time as ever to talk about the future of Kylo Ren.
It’s no secret that many fans are divided on Kylo Ren. Many think he’s the best part of the new trilogy, offering us a layered villain coming into his own, enhanced by the nuanced and powerful performance by Adam Driver. Others think he’s a whiny, emotional brat with anger problems and is one of the worst characters from the series-yes worse than Jar Jar Binks. Regardless what you think of him though, we have at least one more film with the crossguard sabre-wielding baddie, and that may not be enough for some fans.
Thanks to the events of The Last Jedi taking place mere moments after The Force Awakens, we’ve known Kylo Ren and the rest of the gang for a grand total of a few days. Kylo Ren has yet to make a significant impact on the world around him, unlike his idolized grandfather. Vader was only in A New Hope for just over ten minutes, but his presence made a lasting impression. Thanks to Empire Strikes Back taking place three years after that film’s climax, fans can dive into extended stories via books and comics should they so desire, but without the pressure of it being mandatory. So far, we do not have that luxury with Kylo Ren, limiting how much information we get about him. This isn’t a fault of the character or the films, extended media should not be dictated by the films, but for those who want to know more, having the option is always rewarding. For Vader, he was active as of the finale of Revenge of the Sith, through seventeen years worth of untold and told stories in a period know as the “Dark Times” and through the three original films.
With Kylo Ren though, he’s only just starting to find his place in the galaxy. In Force Awakens, he was peacocking half the movie, trying to inspire fear in those around him while ultimately not being as tough as he thinks he is, a case proven when he’s bested by Rey at the finale. Cut to Last Jedi and he’s only just now starting to ditch that persona from the first film, as visualized by the removal and destruction of his mask. By the end of the film, he’s the Supreme Leader. But what does that mean? He’s played by Luke in the end and doesn’t have Starkiller Base or the Supremacy, Snoke’s supermassive ship. He’s a villain without much of a cause. Considering the sequel trilogy is about Rey as much as it is about Kylo, it’ll be interesting to see where J.J. Abrams takes us with Kylo Ren now that he’s in control of the First Order.
Having one more movie with Kylo just doesn’t seem like enough time with him. It only just feels like he’s just getting started as a villain. It’s likely that Episode IX will take place months, if not years, after Last Jedi, resulting in the previously mentioned expended media, but his cinematic impact on the galaxy feels underplayed, despite his compelling character arc. We’ve yet to get feel afraid for our heroes when Kylo is around, which is both a problem for the character and the story. If we’re not afraid that the big bad will do something that may harm our heroes, then he’s not at his full potential yet.
Of course, this may not be the route Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams want to take with Kylo Ren, perhaps his failure to achieve his goals is his legacy, but with such a compelling character and actor behind the role, it’d be satisfying to see him become the thing he wants to become so desperately while continuing the tradition of him being a layered and complex individual. Having him become the villain to the entire galaxy while carrying over that belief from The Last Jedi, where he stated the First Order, Resistance should all just die and allow for something new to start, would be extremely compelling. Part of what makes him a great villain is that he thinks he’s right, not unlike Black Panther’s Killmonger.
Of course, he may end up being redeemed by the end of the film, but that may be too similar to the events of the original films. If he should survive and remain Kylo Ren, it would definitely break a lot of preconceived ideas on narrative structure, where the villain perishes in the final act. If Episode X is on the horizon, Lucasfilm should seriously consider keeping Kylo Ren in some capacity, even if he’s a minor villain whose presence is felt throughout the galaxy, not unlike the Emperor. The Last Jedi was all about subverting audience expectations; Star Wars should continue that mission.
What do you think will happen to Kylo Ren? What should happen to him? Let us know in the comments! If you want to write for us, leave us a message here!